The best teacher is God our Father. The most amazing spiritual director to have is the Holy Spirit. Who else can use every aspect of my life to teach me? Direct me to literature that I need at a certain season in my life? And then supplement my readings with real experiences that bring to life what I’m reading?
God has done this once before on the topics of Discernment and Spiritual Direction. This time, he’s teaching me about Spiritual Warfare, which I realize now is simply a ‘higher’ level of exercising the charismatic gifts of knowledge, wisdom and actively discerning spiritual movements in my life and in others’.
I recently picked up God’s Armor by Mother Nadine of the Intercessors of the Lamb. The charism of this relatively new religious order is contemplative spirituality, intercessory prayer and spiritual warfare. After reading this book for the last couple of days, I realized this morning that God was teaching me, through Mother Nadine’s writing, how to recognize the spiritual war going on in my own life.
Up till a year ago, family and friends were my overwhelming priority. But this year, I’ve found myself called and sent out into a much bigger family – God’s family. In many ways it has been wonderful, as I have gained so many spiritual brothers, sisters, parents and even spiritual children! Yet, there have been forces that make me feel that I have neglected family and friends, and the Lord knows that I have been somewhat bogged down by these concerns.
I have been asking God for the grace of discernment – am I doing his will? Or am I doing my will? I am conscious enough that my motives are probably still mixed (as I am far from being completely selfless yet!). But I have been listening to his voice at each step the best I could, and I know that I have been dying to my own will more and more.
Then last night, I had an interesting encounter with my mom-in-law. My mother-in-law is a simple woman. She isn’t very educated or capable. She can be quite helpless and clueless at times, and like all mothers, she can sometimes be over solicitous (at least from her children’s perspective). But she is a woman of faith, a woman of love, and a woman of joy.
Last night, Henry and I went to have dinner at his parents’ place, and we were very late as Henry had some urgent matters to finish at work. Over dinner, my mom-in-law suddenly said, “I want to say something – and I say it with all truth and sincerity before God ok?” She started telling me that although we don’t live with her, and although we often don’t get to see them every week, she feels very contented with our love. She started pointing out the various things I have done, as a daughter-in-law, over the years, that has made her feel loved. These were very small things mind you! She said that she feels very blessed, and she can tell that Henry and I love her very much. Then, she finished with, “It’s strange… I never planned to say all these things to you. Maybe God has a reason why he wants me to say all this tonight!”
Isn’t God amazing? Recently, I had begun to doubt if I have been neglecting my in-laws because that specific question had been posed to me. I had always felt that my parents-in-law were happy, but I had begun to doubt it, and I had begun to doubt myself. This exchange made me realize I was experiencing concretely some of the things that Mother Nadine wrote about. The devil is very sneaky, and he can use anything that seems good to try and trick us. By making me feel guilty about not spending enough time with family and friends, I had begun to doubt the ministry God has called me into without realizing it. But through my mother-in-law, God reminded me that I can trust him.
I am not saying that it is ok that I give all my time to my ministry and none for those closest to me. But God is asking me not to use my intellect or even what I consider to be ‘good values’ to discern what I should be doing. God is asking me to trust him – to constantly be in communication with him – and he will lead me one step at a time. What his will for me looks like today could be very different from what his concrete will for me is tomorrow or next week. It may make no sense to me because I don’t have the big picture. But I’m not meant to have the big picture – that is God’s job. I am little. I am small. I just follow and trust and let him continue to work in me and through me.
As a friend reminded me recently – all we need in our life is spelled out in the song ‘Don’t Know Much’ by Linda Ronstadt & Aaron Neville:
I don’t know much
But I know I love You…
That may be
All I need to know